Uncertainty Breeds Decreasing Impatience: The Role of Risk Preferences in Time Discounting
University of Zurich, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics Working Paper No. 412
43 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2009
Date Written: May 18, 2009
Future events are uncertain by their very nature. Therefore, people's risk preferences are likely to play a role in the valuation of allegedly guaranteed future outcomes. We show that future uncertainty conjointly with people's proneness to nonlinear probability weighting generates a unifying framework for explaining many anomalies in intertemporal choice, such as hyperbolic discounting and subadditivity of discount factors. Moreover, our approach implies that higher uncertainty of future prospects increases the hyperbolicity of discount rates, suggesting that institutional deficiencies such as lack of contract enforcement, may be a source of hyperbolic discounting behavior. Based on an experiment with monetary incentives, we show that people's risk taking behavior is indeed a significant determinant of their time discounting behavior: Greater departures from linear probability weighting predict a stronger decline in impatience on the level of individual behavior.
Keywords: institutionally generated uncertainty, time preferences, risk preferences, hyperbolic discounting, probability weighting
JEL Classification: D01, D81, D91
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